The 13 Fast-Casual Restaurants Taking Over DC
Fast-casual restaurant concepts have been spreading like wildfire around the country, and DC is no exception. Several popular chains have been born in the District and expanded throughout the metro area, and often to other cities. DC is also welcoming several popular fast-casual chains launched in other markets hoping to find success in the nation's capital. This restaurant trend will surely be a hot topic at Bisnow's DC Retail and Restaurant event on Aug. 23. To whet your appetite, we made a list of the 13 hottest fast-casual restaurants taking over DC right now (in no particular order).
Cava Mezze Grill
- Locations opened: 16 (14 DC Metro)
- Cuisine style: Mediterranean
- Date founded: 2006
The popular DC-born Mediterranean food chain has expanded to California, but it's not done growing here just yet. Cava announced it plans to open three more DC locations.
- Locations opened: 33 in US (25 DC metro)
- Cuisine style: Portuguese Chicken
- Date founded: 1987
The restaurant chain began serving up chicken in South Africa in 1987, but DC was its first introduction to the US when it opened the Chinatown location, above, in 2008. They now have more than two dozen DC locations and will soon open at JBG's RTC West development in Reston.
- Locations opened: 38 (15 DC Metro)
- Cuisine style: Salads
- Date founded: 2001
The creative salad chain launched in Manhattan in 2001, but now DC is one of its hottest markets. Chop't has opened eight locations in the District, four in Montgomery County and three in NoVa.
- Locations opened: 8 (2 planned in DC)
- Cuisine style: Stir Fry and salad
- Date founded: 2012
Honeygrow launched in Philadelphia in 2012 and will now bring its customizable stir-fry concept to DC. Its Pentagon City location is scheduled to open this summer and the Chinatown location (above) will open this winter.
- Locations opened: 11 (all DC Metro)
- Cuisine style: Hoagies
- Date founded: 2008
The DC-born hoagie shop won the Washington Post's "Fast Casual Madness" in March with more than half of the 2,095 reader votes cast in the final showdown with Buredo. Its sandwiches are not only beloved by DC residents—President Obama visited Taylor Gourmet's 14th Street location in 2012, ordering a Spruce Street (roasted turkey, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and sharp provolone).
- Locations opened: 15 (All DC Metro)
- Cuisine style: Pizza
- Date founded: 2012
After launching its first location on H Street NE, above, &Pizza has expanded to 15 locations in the District and Maryland/Virginia suburbs. In March it announced plans to open a Baltimore location on Fed Hill and has three new DC locations opening soon in Chinatown, Barracks Row and Georgetown. This fall, the chain will expand to Philadelphia.
- Locations opened: 5 (4 DC Metro)
- Cuisine style: Steamed Veggies
- Date founded: 2015
José Andres' first fast-casual concept launched in Foggy Bottom last March. Its name may be a bit deceiving as its main attraction is vegetables. (The chain's tagline is "vegetables unleashed.") Customers can top off their bowls of steamed veggies and grains with "meatier options," as they are called.
- Locations opened: 48 (22 DC Metro)
- Cuisine style: Salad Bar
- Date founded: 2007
Since three Georgetown graduates opened the first Sweetgreen location near their alma mater, the chain has expanded throughout the DC area and into Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York and California. It recently opened a Crystal City location and has a Pentagon City and a Golden Triangle location coming soon. Although it's DC born and bred, the chain's HQ moved to LA this year.
Roti Mediterranean Grill
- Locations opened: 22 (10 DC Metro)
- Cuisine Style: Mediterranean
- Date founded: 2007
After launching in Chicago in 2007, the quick-serve mediterranean chain expanded to DC. It now has seven locations in the District—including spots in Union Station and in NoMa (above)—plus locations in Rosslyn, Tysons and Bethesda.
Washington football receiver Pierre Garçon and Paisano’s Pizza owner Fouad Qreitem launched a pizza joint at One Loudoun in November 2014. The concept allows customers to customize their toppings and watch their pizza cook in its super hot oven in just 90 seconds. They opened a second location in Rosslyn last year and are planning one in the Wheaton Mall, with hopes of moving into DC.
- Locations opened: 7 (2 coming soon in DC)
- Cuisine style: Burgers
- Date founded: 2011
Actor Mark Wahlberg and his brothers founded a burger chain in Hingham, MA, in 2011 and are about to expand like crazy. They have seven locations already open, but recently announced plans to open 118 more, including one in Dupont Circle and another in Ballston.
Amsterdam Falafelshop has been an Adams Morgan staple since 2004 and just recently began a rapid expansion. Restaurateur David Rosenstein signed a five-franchise deal and opened a Clarendon location in 2014. The chain also has expansion plans for Boston, Salt Lake City and Dallas/Fort Worth.
- Locations open: 7 (all in DC Metro)
- Cuisine style: Mexican
- Date founded: 2010
This growing DC power started as a taco cart on N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn six years ago. The taco cart has been retired—owner Osiris Hoil had to focus his efforts on his local chain's expansion, from the first brick-and-mortar store in a nondescript strip mall on Lee Highway in Arlington to the two upcoming stores in Tenleytown and Bailey's Crossroads. Its speciality is unlimited toppings, different fresh proteins on different days of the week and breakfast burritos served all day.